Al-Jazeera Banned on Wall Street and wiped off the Internet, Calls on U.S. to Ensure Free Press - Reuters March 26 2003

Ralph Johansen michele at
Wed Mar 26 16:21:10 MST 2003

March 26 2003

Al-Jazeera Calls on U.S. to Ensure Free Press
By Merissa Marr, European Media Correspondent

LONDON (Reuters) - Banned on Wall Street and wiped off the Internet, Arab
news channel al-Jazeera defended its controversial coverage of the Iraq
(news - web sites) war on Wednesday and demanded the United States come to
its aid in the name of a free press.

Al-Jazeera, which angered Washington by showing footage of dead and captured
American soldiers, voiced concern after two of its reporters were banned
from the New York Stock Exchange (news - web sites) (NYSE) and its Web sites
were hacked.

The NYSE stopped al-Jazeera broadcasts, saying credentials were only for
networks that provided "responsible" coverage. Al-Jazeera was also denied a
request to broadcast live from New York's Nasdaq exchange.

"There has to be a national effort to protect the freedom of the press even
more," said al-Jazeera spokesman Jihad Ballout.

"We appeal to authorities to pay attention to this."

Al-Jazeera has taken the Arab world by storm since its launch in 1996, with
its controversial reporting and brash, Western style drawing an audience of
more than 35 million.

After making its name in the Afghan war with exclusive footage of Osama bin
laden (news - web sites), the Qatar-based satellite channel has also had
success in Europe, with viewers doubling since the start of the Iraq war.

But the CNN of the Arab world raised U.S. ire when on Sunday it aired shaken
U.S. prisoners of war and dead U.S. soldiers with gaping bullet wounds,
prompting the Pentagon (news - web sites) to issue a rare appeal to U.S.
networks not to use the footage.

Al-Jazeera on Wednesday showed pictures of what it said were two dead
British soldiers and two British prisoners of war.


In Europe, al-Jazeera said it had signed up more than four million
subscribers in the past week. But in the United States, it has drawn little
more than 100,000 subscribers.

"In Europe, we're naturally most popular in countries with big Muslim
populations like France. In Britain, we've also seen a pick up in
non-Arabic-speaking Muslims," Ballout said.

Viewers, who subscribe through local satellite operators, are glued to the
pictures even if they cannot understand the words. There are no
English-language subtitles.

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